Vitamin D Deficiency and Depression…
I’m pretty sure you will agree with me when I say that the sunshine tends to make you feel better in yourself… problems seem smaller, you see things with a wider perspective and you tend to come up with solutions quicker.
Interestingly, people who suffer with depression are often found to have low levels of Vitamin D, otherwise known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Studies (like this one) have shown that supplementing with Vitamin D can help to overcome depression (in some cases) or substantially ease symptoms at the very least.
When I lived in the Caribbean, I noticed a remarkable trend in the population: the rate of depression and anxiety was very low in comparison to western nations. After doing research, and going through studies conducted on the link between vitamin D deficiency and depression, I realised, this was certainly true in the Caribbean… a hot tropical paradise, where even through torrential rains, you can feel the heat of the sun blazing down on you, on the trees, on the roads, on anything it can touch.
Depression is an all encompassing condition that can affect every factor of daily life. It is proposed that it is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting at least 120 million people, with conservative estimates suggesting only 25% of people with depression are treated.
Although there are ways to help manage and treat depression naturally, in most cases, causal factors are ignored, and patients are automatically put on antidepressants.
This is now changing… there is an increasing awareness around the link between Vitamin D deficiency and depression, and the role of Vitamin D supplementation in treating depression.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods (such as egg yolks, cheese & oily fish) but you might have noticed that certain foods come fortified with Vitamin D (cereals, milk, juice). The human body in all its glory produces Vitamin D internally when the sunlight (UV rays) hits our skin.
It makes perfect sense then that countries where:
- we get less hours of sunlight
- we live more sedentary lives (stuck in offices through day light hours)
- we are less active (less outdoor activities)
- staple foods in the diet are not Vitamin D rich
- the weather is mainly cold (which means less outdoor activities)
we might see an increase in the rates of depression.
Now, just for a second, think of this. Do you have an office job? Do you work heavy hours mainly stuck inside a building, with very little time to get out and actually experience the outdoors? Imagine a country, then, where the weather is frigid, people generally work 40 hours a week, and live less active lifestyles?… for years?
Unless they are supplementing with Vitamin D (which is not very common even though you can buy Vitamin D over the counter or online), I think its safe to say that Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent, affects many of all ages worldwide & could be the culprit behind a whole host of conditions, not least of which is depression.
You can also nip across to Amazon (by clicking the picture or right here) and pick up a years supply of Vitamin D supplements to boost your levels.
Best part is its GMO free and completely organic!
Back to the Caribbean for a second. Where the economy is far from perfect. Where average salaries are just about enough to get by… when you can actually find a job and stick with it long term. Where little is made on island, so many basic necessities need to be imported, pushing up the cost of living.
Yet, despite all this, people seem happier. Lighter. Emotionally more grounded. Able to rationalise and strategically figure out how to ease their financial burdens.
I worked in four out of the 6 pharmacies on the island, including the busiest pharmacy on the island, and I can tell you we were not dispensing much Citalopram, Fluoxetine, Sertraline or Paroxetine on a regular basis. Ironically, the most regular antidepressant patients were people from western countries like the UK and USA and Europe that had moved out to the Caribbean.
The lifestyle is much more active. The food is much more healthier. Junk food is expensive and not readily available in copious quantities so you are forced to opt for the healthier alternatives.
They have a healthy amount of Vitamin D (through daily food intake and from soaking up the rays of sun on sandy beaches that meet crystal clear blue waters) where as in western countries we are lucky if we can say we are getting or producing the bare minimum amounts of Vit D.
Vitamin D is not just important for elevating our mood, it helps calcium be absorbed in the gut, which helps maintain ideal calcium levels in the body. It is essential for bone growth and the quality of the bones (without it, the bones can become brittle and more prone to fractures or breaks).
Vitamin D deficiency in adults can result in osteoporosis and in children, it can cause rickets. It is also imperative that we have adequate levels of Vit D to maintain our immune function, and it plays an irreplaceable role in cell growth, maintenance and cell death.
Here are the basic signs of Vitamin D deficiency:
How Much Vitamin D daily?
Vitamin D deficiency and depression has been widely studied and although some researchers are hesitant to make a definitive connection between the two, all will agree that supplementing with Vitamin D can help to treat depression, many times single handedly. Without medicinal intervention. This means you might not need anti depressants to treat your depression, rather a healthy dose of the sunshine vitamin (Vitamin D) might just do the trick.
Of course, there are some side effects. It might make your aches and pains go away. You might have a lot of energy. Your overall health may improve, and you may find your skin is clearing up. Muscle weakness might just become a distant memory. Sound good? Are you in? I am.
On a side note, if you take too much of Vitamin D it can cause headaches, a metallic taste, weakness, fatigue, drowsiness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. This shouldn’t be a problem that you face though because your physician can check for Vitamin D levels in the blood and prescribe Vitamin D supplements at the adequate dosage to reverse an insufficiency or a deficiency.
Vitamin D requirement varies from children to adults:
- A child under the age of one year should be getting 400 units daily,
- children over one, teens, adults should get minimum of 600 units daily
- if you are above 70, then you can increase this to at least 800 units a day
This is the bare minimum amount of Vitamin D you should be receiving, if you have an insufficient amount, or are severely deficient, then the amounts would be higher of course.
Conclusion: The Link Between Vitamin D Deficiency & Depression
Depression is prevalent world wide, and comes with a whole host of related disorders that can slowly but surely take over a persons life. Treatment for depression is often simplified and people are put on antidepressants as a first line therapy.
My aim in writing this post is to raise awareness around the widespread issue of vitamin D deficiency and depression, so that if you or any of your loved ones should find themselves in a stage of their life where they feel depressed, they are better informed about this potential cause and natural treatment.
I think we would all prefer to take a vitamin to combat a condition (if possible) rather than be on chemical drugs which could end up giving us a whole bunch of negative side effects. This does not mean that you should stop taking antidepressants if you are on them, rather that you could request your doctor to check your Vitamin D levels so you could also resolve a deficiency (if you have one).
Always seek help if you are feeling depressed for most of the day every day for two weeks or more. There is always someone who is willing to help you see another perspective.
Always keep in mind that your life has value. To you. To me. To the coming generations!
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